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According to the New York Times, the rules narrow the definition of sexual harassment, require survivors to go through more extensive processes to file complaints, and only hold schools responsible for addressing sexual misconduct of their students when it occurs on their campuses. (Photo: Christine Baker/The Patriot-News)

According to the New York Times, the rules narrow the definition of sexual harassment, require survivors to go through more extensive processes to file complaints, and only hold schools responsible for addressing sexual misconduct of their students when it occurs on their campuses. (Photo: Christine Baker/The Patriot-News)

Amid 'Epidemic' of Campus Sexual Assault, Women's Groups Decry Rollback of Protections by 'See No Evil Betsy Devos'

"These new rules further protect abusers in a system that is already rigged in their favor."

Common Dreams staff

Women rights groups and victim advocates expressed outrage on Thursday following reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has plans to weaken federal protections for sexual assault survivors on U.S. campuses—reducing liability for school administrators and increasing protections for accused sexual predators.

The proposed rules, first reported by The New York Times, narrow the definition of sexual harassment to mean "unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity."

Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), responded by saying the new rules turn the "government's response to assault, harassment, and rape upside down," and gave the name "See No Evil Betsy DeVos" to the secretary.

"Under the Obama guidelines, schools could rely on the lowest standard of proof, or the 'preponderance of evidence' when deciding whether or not an alleged perpetrator should be punished for sexual misconduct," Van Pelt explained. "But in Betsy DeVos’ upside-down land, schools could decide which level of evidence to rely on when investigating misconduct, narrow the definition of sexual harassment, and only be accountable for complaints which are formally filed."

Citing statistics that one in four women are sexually assaulted while attending college, including estimates that 90 percent go unreported, Karin Roland chief campaigns officer for UltraViolet, said that while women face a "national rape epidemic" on U.S. campuses, "Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration care more about protecting perpetrators and sexual abusers over sexual assault survivors. This policy is extremely dangerous and beyond shameful."

The new rules, Roland added, "further protect abusers in a system that is already rigged in their favor. With sexual assaults routinely going unreported, uninvestigated and unpunished, these new rules will only make campuses less safe."

Jess Davidson, survivor and executive director of End Rape on Campus slammed Devos on CNN, saying new rules would encourage further underreporting and victim shaming. 
 
Watch:
 
 
Davidson also tweeted, "This new rule would make schools less safe. Fewer survivors will report their assaults and harassment and as a result more survivors will be unable to equally access their Title IX right to education."
 
In another tweet she said, "The leaked rule requires that assaults must take place on-campus in order for a school to investigate; this would shut out the thousands of survivors who are assaulted off-campus at fraternities, parties, or bars."

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Pointing to 'Recently Obtained Evidence,' Jan. 6 Panel Calls Surprise Tuesday Hearing

The announcement came less than a week after the House panel delayed new hearings until next month, citing a "deluge" of fresh evidence.

Common Dreams staff ·


Looming US Supreme Court Climate Decision Could 'Doom' Hope for Livable Future

"The immediate issue is the limits of the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases," said one scientist. "The broader issue is the ability of federal agencies to regulate anything at all."

Jessica Corbett ·


Abortion Rights Groups Sue to Block Post-Roe Trigger Laws in Louisiana

"We will be fighting to restore access in Louisiana and other states for as long as we can," said one reproductive rights campaigner.

Jake Johnson ·


Progressives Launch 'Four More' Campaign to Demand Supreme Court Expansion

"In a true democracy, power rests with the people," one campaigner asserted. "And the only way to take our power back is to take back the court."

Brett Wilkins ·


Poll Shows Majority Oppose Supreme Court's Attack on Fundamental Rights

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they're now concerned the court will attack marriage equality and the right to obtain contraception.

Julia Conley ·

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